Photo: Claire Lower
Chilli is a perfect cold-weather food, but it’s been two whole months since the last edition of the Pan of chilli cook-offwho introduced the messy but surprisingly delicious Chilli pizza. I have excuses, of course – I was on the move and Christmas happened – but the most important thing to focus on is that we’re back with more chili and this time there is onion in it.
If I’ve learned anything from the pizza chili incident, some people have no sense of humor when it comes to chili. One man even went so far as to say that pizza chilli (or any chilli that deviates from the “con carne” format) appropriated “Texan culture,” which is one of the most Texan things I have ever read.
This guy is going to hate this, but this guy isn’t the senior food editor here so he’s not allowed to pick the chilli – I get to pick the chilli and, other than trolling, I really like a good chicken with chillies. This caught my eye for its “secret ingredient” which is Dean’s French Onion, one of my favorite dips that I bought in the store.
If you even know me, you know that I love dip, even when it comes in room temperature jars and chilled plastic tubs, and I’m already an avid supporter of using store-bought onion dips in mashed potatoes. As I explained earlier, “the emulsified oil product helps bind the hydrophilic to the hydrophobic, creating a velvety, creamy bowl of spuds with a surprisingly subtle onion flavor and just enough umami,” and I don’t understand why this isn’t the Case is do similar things in chicken chili. And it worked even better than I expected, but before we get into that, let’s take a moment to read the recipe as it was written by threedayante:
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This recipe leaves a lot open for interpretation, which makes it extremely customizable. It’s also very easy to break up, so you don’t have to do it all at once. I prepped the chicken first and baked it in 24 ounces of garlic and herb noodle sauce with 1/2 teaspoon of cumin, 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder, 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. I then let it sit in the fridge overnight and prepared the rest of the chilli the next day.
I caramelized the onions as directed, but when I added the garlic I found that I wasn’t there and – due to a lot of snow – couldn’t get any more, so I added another 1 1/2 teaspoons of garlic powder to the tomato sauce as well more cumin, more cayenne pepper, and some black pepper (all to taste). I added the beans, let them get hot, then added enough deans dip to make them “look orange and lovely” (about half a cup). I stirred until all the little white dip streaks were gone, brought it to a boil and flavored it, then added more cumin and cayenne pepper.
I took the chicken out of the fridge, chopped it into bite-sized pieces, and tossed it (along with the pan juices) into the pot. Then I let it simmer and reduced it for about 15 minutes before covering it, cooling it, and letting it sit in the fridge overnight as is my habit.
Folks, I’m happy to report that this chili is delicious and the onion dip is a certifiable hack. The Dean gives it a creamy, luscious body and – thanks to our friend MSG – a little extra dash of umami, but it’s so shockingly subtle that you wouldn’t know it was there unless someone told you to. The chicken was just as tender as promised and stayed tender even when I reheated the leftovers in the microwave.
Whenever I have a review of this chilli recipe, I wish the ingredients were listed beforehand, if only because it would have made writing my shopping list a little easier. But I appreciate the lack of chilli regulations and its own adventurous spirit of this recipe, and would recommend it to anyone looking for a good chicken chilli. Chili should be fun and few things should scream “fun!” as loud as onion dip.